Rating: 5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
The Dark Knight has a reputation for being “dark.” Some Batman fans love it when things get “dark” and hate when Batman is not taken seriously enough. However, in light of more recent “dark” takes on Batman, it may be time to reassess how “dark” The Dark Knight really is.
Bale’s Batman in this film is a James Bond-style take on the character: he makes quips, he wears a nice suit while Lucius Fox’s Q shows him gadgets (even accidentally firing a gadget at the wall, as 007 is wont to do), and drives a fancy car (in this case, a Lamborghini) on his way to save the day. One thing he won’t do that Bond always does is deliberately take a life. The Joker taunts him that “tonight you’ll break your one rule” but even after Rachel, the love of his life (apparently), is killed, Batman almost kills himself wiping out on his Bat-Motorcycle to avoid killing The Joker. As if inspired by the famously “dark” comic story, The Killing Joke, Batman’s core objective in this story is to prove to the Joker (and, by extension, Gotham) that the Joker’s darkness is an aberration, and most people are basically good.
The shining star of this movie is of course Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning take on the Joker. A brilliant, sadistic, twitchy, agent of chaos whose only desire is to make the world more like him. Christopher Nolan’s movies aren’t nearly comic-booky enough for the Joker. He loves the idea of Batman and wants to be his Moriarty, and he manipulates Harvey Dent into becoming Two-Face simply because he wants to bring more colorful comic book characters into the world. Even Batman doesn’t understand someone as comic book-y as The Joker, trying to track him down like he would any other criminal, looking for his known associates and trying to understand his goals. Meanwhile the Joker is putting the DNA of his next three targets on a Joker playing card, just waiting and hoping for Batman to boot up his Bat-Computer to follow his clues and try to stop him.
The final victory of the film isn’t when Batman defeats the Joker in a fist fight and leaves him for the cops, but shortly before that when two ferries (one full of criminals, the other full of regular people) separately decide that saving their own lives isn’t worth the price of murdering the strangers on the other boat. Far from dark, when Tiny Lister’s convict character takes the detonator from the guard and throws it out the window, it’s a moving and uplifting moment. The whole sequence is one of the best produced for any super hero movie.
I love the early scenes of Batman taking on the Scarecrow and the Batman impersonators. Cillian Murphy is criminally underused in these movies and indeed in all movies.
“I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”
“You have nothing. Nothing to threaten me with. Nothing to do with all your strength.”
“How about a magic trick?”
Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face is an essential part of the story, but the Joker takes up so much oxygen that Dent’s story feels a little rushed sometimes.
I’m not sure if trading Katie Holmes for Maggie Gyllenhaal is a trade-up.
Unclear to me why they had to tell Gordon’s family he was dead or why Gordon was the getaway driver in disguise, except they seemed like cool things to happen in the moment. Gordon actually was shot, I think, but then he seems fine later on. And when did they make the decision to fake his death? In the ambulance on the way to the hospital?
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”